There are certain trees in the woods where I walk that I know better than others. There’s something in them that calls out to me. It’s usually something in their size or shape that pulls me. One has a thick scar that reaches up from the ground to the highest branch. One has an infinite well of water held in its trunk. One is already dead, shedding its bark and hollowed out by woodpeckers and small animals who have made it their home.
I sit in the tree, or one the ground leaning my back against its massive trunk. Or I stand on its roots and wrap my arms around it. I close my eyes and listen and feel.
I’ve come to believe that because trees take so long to grow, because they’re on a different time line than us, one that sometimes takes years for the smallest change to take place, that when I connect with them, I get to experience their reality of time. That means for me, everything slows down. I quickly drop out of my head and into my body. Usually I feel it in the bottom of my belly. As if somehow the tree empties me out and creates space inside of me. I feel a vibration traveling up and down my legs.
My thoughts quiet. Sometimes I get words or images, much like when I listen to the animals.
Sometime I just get still.
After this my walk is different. Moving slower, I’m more aware of what’s around me, what’s right in front of me. And the prayer continues as I make my way home.
Because that’s what I’ve come to think of what happens between me and the trees. A prayer.
I was raised Catholic, but I never understood the concept of prayer. When I was kid and my family visited the cemetery where my grandmother was buried, after planting flowers, my mother (who is not religious) would tell us to say a prayer. I never knew what to say. The only prayer I knew was The Lord’s Prayer and reciting it made no sense to me at all and it had nothing to do with my grandmother.
I never understood how reciting a prayer after confession would absolve my sins. And I never found comfort in the words. They never had meaning for me.
So I always felt uncomfortable telling someone I’d pray for them when something bad happened. Even the idea of sending love was tough for me. I’d say it or write it, but I wasn’t actually doing anything more than that.
When I’d try to actually send the love, I’d see the word “Love”, big letters floating in space. And if I pictured it reaching the person, it would stop in front of them as if there was a wall between the word and them.
It was just a word.
About a year ago, I decided to come up with an image, so that when I told someone I was sending love I could actually do it. In my mind, I pictured a pink quilt, one that I made years ago and use myself. I pictured the quilt with wings hovering in a void. In a moment, I could send it off to the person I wanted to give my love and comfort. Then I see the quilt flying across the void and to the person. When it reaches them, the quilt gently lands on them wrapping itself around them in a big warm hug.
So I sit with the trees and send out beautiful, comforting images and energy in the form of my pink, winged quilt. And recently I’ve gotten into doing a LovingKindness meditation at different times for different reasons.
These are simple words that I make sense to me. They bring me comfort and let me put comfort out into the world at the same time.
I guess, in my own way, I’m learning how to pray.