Sunday, June 12, 2016

Natures Hidden Teachers - The Personalities Of Trees

   “One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly”. (Sri Siksastakam; Text 3).




Oak / Ek (Quercus)


     According to wikipedia there are over 600 species of Oak worldwide. Here we are focusing particularly on the white oak (Quercus Alba) of northern europe. This Oak is majestic and stands tall in the fields and forests. The oldest oaks in europe are estimated to be 2000 years old and can grow to massive girths, much like the tree pictured above. The Oak is old and wise.
The very epitome of selfless love, the Oak tree can host a whole microcosm of beings. In Britain more than 250+ species of insect have been found living on one Oak tree, not to mention the countless fungus and microbes that live life around the great root system. That’s an impressive collection of beings living their lives connected to the Oak Tree. Imagine trying to support 200 children on a daily basis! Even if the majority of insects gnaw, chew and bore into its trunk the king of trees still provides shelter for all these creatures without complaint. It is said the parent can find joy in the mischievous actions of the children.
    Often we hear in popular culture and society that nature functions via “the law of the jungle” or “survival of the fittest”, although this sometimes seems to be the case it is more apparent that symbiotic relationships and the law of mutual cooperation are actually how successful species survive in relation to the environment and each other. Go out into a natural landscape or forest and you will be standing in a finely tuned ecosystem that thrives on a correlation between the biggest trees down to the smallest microbes living in the pungent soil.


   The Oak generally has a masculine character and in many ancient cultures represented God, Divinity, the Sun, and Sacred Places. The Mistletoe (mistle) found growing on Oak was considered most Holy and Sacred. We will look at the Mistletoe in a later segment as this plant has been considered holy for thousands of years. The Oak tree was considered the protector of the light half of the year (midwinter to midsummer). He represents safety and protection, a provider and sustainer.  Acorns, the nut of the oak tree, provided food for our ancestors and their livestock. The acorn is somewhat bitter and needs to be treated in some way to be palatable to people; boiled, ground or roasted to remove the tannins the source of the bitter taste.
  The wood is strong and coarsely grained. It is even said that a post of oak would outlive a post of iron. If carved and oiled it takes a beautiful, rich deep brown colour.


 So who is the Oak tree and what does he want to teach us?  The lessons of the Oak is selfless giving, teaching the strength to be found in gentleness. How to return love and care to the environment and the creatures therein. The Oak tree teaches us to be a shelter giver to those who come to us. Oak is a being grounded in stability even if facing adversity. The winds of change present in our lives may push us and make us stumble or fall, like Oak we should send our own roots deep; into the indigenous and ancestral wisdoms of the world nourishing us with the nutrients of stability and firmness. By taking root in these ancient wisdoms we enter into a more mystical and personal relationship with Mother Earth and God. These ancient teachings are not dead, left in the past, but are a living tradition that we can tap into just as a tree taps into the sustenance it needs from the living soil.  These traditions are the gateway into a saner future and the Oak stands guardian over these teachings protecting them and holding them for us and future generations to access, just as he stands and guards over the turning year.
       The Oak, like most of nature, works in cycles and teaches us how to listen and enter into those same rhythms and cycles. Teaches how to align our own lives to these natural rhythms, bringing us into greater harmony with all that is. Oaks powertime is from midwinter to midsummer. During this time you can watch the Oak come into leaf (quite late in comparison to other trees) and gradually become heavy with acorns as the sun reaches it’s yearly zenith. At this time the Oak carries an atmosphere of aliveness and heaviness, this is the energy of teacher. The atmosphere beneath its branches is earthy yet transcendent, definite and surcharged with the buzzing of hundreds of insects and the melodies of birdsong. To the ancient Vedic culture of Europe and the Druidic religion that developed long before the advent of Christianity the Oak was the most holy of trees and was venerated as sacred
      Oak tree is Guru, Teacher and the Sovereign Father. The Oak is the fearless warrior and Righteous King, providing protection and shelter to those under his influence within the forest kingdom. If we are lacking strength and stability in life then we should spend time with the oak tree. Beneath its branches we become grounded in it’s strong energy. Here we can learn the art of giving, of surrendering to the needs of others who come to us for help. Here we can learn of the strength that comes from having stable roots, regulated life and dedicated meditation practice.
    Much folk medicine is made from Oak bark due to it’s high level of tannins and astringent properties. This makes it useful for stemming the flow of blood in wounds, treating hemorrhoids, or a mouthwash for bleeding gums. Made into a tea it works well for diarrhea! It can also be made into a topical solution for bathing sore feet and treating burns or blisters.
   A note of warning here though, much care, respect and forethought should be used before collecting any plants for use from nature. One should always check that a plant to be harvested is abundant before taking what one needs. Some prayer or love gift should be offered before harvesting a plant. It is good manners to address the plant and ask it for what you need, then listen to the subtle feelings within yourself for the reply. Imagine if someone came and cut your hair without asking! If harvesting bark from a tree never take bark from around the entire trunk, called “ringing” this actually stems or stops the flow of sap and can harm or even kill the tree. Taking a small amount from many different trees is a much more sustainable and kinder way to collect what we might need.
    We have a duty as human beings on this planet to nurture, care for and protect our mother nature. If we carry this attitude with us when interacting with the plants, trees and animals in nature then a relationship of trust and love automatically develops. Nature can provide in abundance, provided we give care and protection in return and do not take more than we need. Planting trees is one of the most fantastic activities we can do to give back to nature. Trees are the lungs of the planet, sucking in carbon dioxide and giving out pure oxygen in return. Not only the lungs trees are also similar to hairs on the body of Mother Earth, meaning they provide for her the feeling of sensation and touch. Our actions of cutting down natural forests directly affect the wellbeing of Mother Earth and therefore all creatures that call Her home, including us!
For all our technological advances we are not separate from nature. We are completely dependant. In these times of ecological distress and global pillaging we are becoming more and more entangled in her complexities and need to return to a relationship of partnership and guardianship. The Oak tree can help us develop the wisdom and grounding we need to do just that!

   

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