I Stand Like a Tree

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I have had vivid dreams before.

Once, I dreamed the world was ending. I remember watching a concrete overpass fall to the ground. It was immediately covered by a rapid growth of grass. The street became a rushing river right before my eyes. I watched as all man-made structures disappeared and the earth was restored to a paradise. In my dream I was overcome by unspeakable joy and I turned my eyes to the sky.

I knew Jesus was coming.

It was so convincing that when I awoke, I ran to the window just to make sure.

That dream changed me.

Gerald May describes experiencing something similar in this week’s chapter of The Wisdom of the Wilderness, Experiencing the Healing Power of Nature. May opens chapter ten, Natural Being (Only one more, folks!), with the story of his dream about an encounter with a mountain lion. The dream left such an impression that a dozen years later it remained fresh and clear in his mind.

Nothing much happened in the dream--other than a lot of observation of one another--oh, yeah, and May running for his life at one point. But in the end, May and the beast locked eyes and had a sort-of mind meld. Then the cat left.

After considering the dream, May reflects:

At first I thought the teaching was about animal being, the mystery of what goes on inside the consciousness of wild creatures. Now, however, I believe the teaching…is really about ourselves, about human nature… wild creatures share this one characteristic: they are completely, totally themselves. They do not pretend to be anything else. They do not question their identity. ..They are what they are, and they are impeccable at it. They have no use for questions about their worth on earth. They are worthy.

May says that we too can reach this state of lively being-who-one-is-where-one-is if we practice alertness the way the stag does. He notes that the deer takes many times to stand very still in the midst of whatever he is doing. He becomes very attentive…listens, looks, smells. Even more.

The stillness inside must become exquisite; it must deepen into a moment of absolutely pure and utterly simple wakefulness in which your whole being is vitally present. In this stillness, you exist in beauty, and your next movement is perfectly clear. It is the practical, immediate ground of both appreciation and wisdom.

May practices this type of alertness when he walks through the natural world.

…I like to stop, sometimes suddenly, sometimes softly. I stand like a tree. I look around and feel my body. I notice my breath steaming in the cool air. I sense inside, my emotions and heart-perceptions…If I want to know which way to turn next, I wait, see, listen. My being lives and Wisdom comes.

This is the true teaching of the wild, May says, that by so fully being who they are, they show us how to be who we really are.

This teaching also heals, the author asserts. May believes that root of our brokenness is our separation from nature.

May admits that he is not sure exactly how Nature heals us.

In part, it happens just through the physical touch of earth and sky and growing things…For me, the deep touching happens when my mind stops and my senses open and I am given willingness. I have never been able to do this for myself. It has to come through grace, in the Presence of the One I called the Power of the Slowing, the Wisdom of the Wild.

Food for thought:

**Do you believe humans are capable of the same kind of alertness as the wild creatures?

**Have you ever experienced healing through being part of nature as May describes?

**Do you think this type of healing happens the same way for everyone?

Related posts:

Glynn's A Line I Can't Cross

post by Laura Boggess , photo by Kelly Langner Sauer, used with permission