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What We Can Learn About Suffering from Trees As Autumn Ushers In

The top lessons we can take from nature this month

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“Look deeper into nature, and then you will understand everything.”

Albert Einstein

As the dark evenings draw in earlier, and the leaves begin to change colour, and it gets just that little bit colder, we can begin to get jittery; and it’s not just because we are heading towards winter, either. We are so used to suffering, you see, that even the self-help industry has risen 20% this year, as we focus more and more on how to transform ourselves. But what if we weren’t ‘broken’ in the first place – and what if all we really needed was to look to nature to teach us this beautiful lesson?

We are all so obsessed with learning about how to ‘fix’ ourselves, that sometimes, we miss the truth that we were never broken in the first place, and this is something I learned along my own journey, as I navigated years of self-help ‘fixes’ when I fell ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome nearly 10 years ago. With so many stress-related illnesses, society has become almost conditioned to only look for a way out of our stress by changing the external – by doing something that is meant to help us become ‘more whole’. But, in doing so, we totally bypass the key missing link to mindfulness; that even all the need for ‘self-help’ is simply a thought.

“A tree doesn’t stand there worrying about why its leaves are shedding in this season of change. Why do we?”

Nicole Barton

We see this lesson in nature. A tree doesn’t stand there worrying about why its leaves are shedding, for example – so why do we? What I’ve begun to see is that underneath the human capacity to think, we are part of nature – but we forget this as we move through life, navigating our thought-created suffering. In our never-ending search to find wholeness, we forget the most important thing – something that only nature can gift us – and that is the remembrance that we are already whole. And this powerful insight can change everything.

Along my journey, I began to see that underneath the amazing capacity we have to ‘think’ – I call this the power of thought – we are all the same. We are all connected. I call this our true nature – some might label it ‘something greater’, some might call it our ‘spiritual energy,’ some might call it our ‘divinity’ – but these are all labels for the same thing: our connectedness. When we begin to see that we are nature, and we are not separate from it, our suffering begins to fall away, just like the leaves!

If we can begin to see that we are nature, but with the capacity to think, it becomes easier to understand how we became sucked into the simple misunderstanding that changes everything. If we are nature, and we see that we, too, can shed our leaves this Autumn (or anytime!), without having to think, then we begin to rest in the beautiful spaciousness that appears in the realisation of our true freedom. What we begin to see is that what is occurring in our everyday lives is simply just ‘what is’ – with no meaning whatsoever, until we apply a narrative.

The implications of this for how we deal with our human suffering are huge. If we know that our true essence is simply connection or oneness with nature, then we can begin to see how our narrative can’t really impact our wholeness. And likewise, we can begin to see that, even in this moment, as the cruel fires burn in the Amazon, there is no felt suffering with the absence of thought; there only ‘is’ what is – and it is immensely tragic, but we have no control over it in this moment. As humans, of course, we can mourn this terrible disaster, and do our best to change things for future, but this is only available to us through our beautiful gift of human thought.

That’s not to say that we don’t allow our suffering, though – sometimes, we just have to allow what is, and rest in it. A tree doesn’t deny its leaves falling – it simply accepts it. And, as the leaves fall, the tree just simply continues living, breathing, growing and evolving, accepting the season’s beauty just as it is. For me, this is a powerful metaphor from nature about who we really are, and how we can more easily navigate life. When I have experienced suffering, uncertainty and change in my life, and I have remembered the beautiful lessons that she gorgeous shedding of orange leaves gifts us each year, it has truly helped me to remember my very essence. How can we be broken when we are made of the same magical stardust as the universe? How can we be any less perfect than a tree? And, in that case, how can we suffer, when a tree dances so elegantly with all of the seasons – simply because it is in the absence of the ability to keep itself in its suffering without the power of thought.

We were offered the most beautiful, creative gift to experience life with more feelings than a tree is granted, but our nature is the same. We are just as graceful, and just as resilient – we just have the added capacity to create narratives in which we forget who we really are, underneath! And that is the most powerful lesson that nature gifts us about this Autumn; the ability to remember that we are already whole, we were never broken, and that we are resilient – underneath all of the thinking that we aren’t.

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