I have always loved trees! I remember growing up in Wisconsin, we had a large maple tree in our front yard. During the summer months when it was surprisingly hot for a northern state like Wisconsin, I would pack up books and my plastic zoo animals, and anything else that I could find, grab an old blanket, and set myself up for the afternoon under that huge maple tree. As I sat there sipping lemonade and playing make-believe with the many zoo animals I had collected over the years I felt a great sense of peace and comfort knowing that the blazing hot sun could not break through the canopy of green above me.
Trees have always represented security and safety for me. As I grew older, I spent a lot less time under that favorite tree, but just knowing it was there seemed to be enough to help me feel grounded in something sure. Seasons would come and go, and as they did, I grew older and so did that tree.
There came a time when that majestic tree began to look less vibrant and alive, it seemed confused about what season it was and how it should respond to the changing temperatures. I came home from school one day to see that “my tree” was gone, all that remained of that magnificent representation of security and strength was a stump along with sawdust and pieces of its branches. I recall feeling a sadness that I could not explain. I had not paid attention to that tree as I grew older and left make-believe and children’s books behind, but I never imagined that it would not be there standing tall and sure outside of my bedroom window.
Now it was gone, and with it a felt sense of security and assurance that things would always be the same. A few years later my parents separated and eventually divorced, how naive I had been to think that anything in this world would stay the same. I grew up and moved on with my life, but my love of trees and appreciation for the many metaphors they continue to represent in my life have always fascinated me.
Do you have something in life that makes you feel secure, that gives you a felt sense that all will be well even when everything else around you says otherwise? Over the years I have found that the things that represent security to me have changed as I have gotten older, but what hasn’t changed is the way that nature speaks to me. How about for you? What is the one thing that represents security in your life? Maybe it’s your bank account, or the home you grew up in, maybe it’s coming home to the unconditional love of your pet or the warm hugs of your children showing you just how much you were missed.
It’s important to take time to rest in the things that provide comfort when all else around you seems to be changing and at times chaotic. Think of an anchor, the way that it holds even the greatest of ships steady in the sea. We need that same kind of steadiness in our lives to weather the storms without being thrown too far off course. What are some of the storms you are facing right now? How is your anchor holding? We are currently living in times that may feel chaotic and uncertain. With so many different challenges going on in the world it is not at all surprising if you feel a little vulnerable and shaken.
Can you relate to the picture of the tree above? During a recent storm, this sturdy tree took a direct hit from a lightning bolt. As you can see in the picture, the bark of the tree was blown completely from the tree by the force of the electric current that coursed through its trunk. Pieces of its bark were thrown off in all directions, leaving the tree exposed on all sides. Has there been a lightning bolt that has jolted your life, leaving you feeling exposed? Are you trying to make sense of the events of the last few months while also trying to create some normalcy for yourself and your family?
We all need something or someone to trust in when we take a hit that rocks us to our core! If you are feeling exposed or vulnerable here are some tips that will help you weather whatever storm you are facing right now.
- Creating rituals: What are the rituals in your day that allow you to center yourself? Things such as yoga, getting lost in a good book, coffee or tea with a trusted friend, or a warm bath at the end of a long day. These are little things that when done often enough can become a healthy habit. A way of hitting your reset button when you need it most.
- Body scan: Find a quiet place where you can either sit or lie down. If you only have a few minutes don’t get discouraged. Settle into yourself and as you do focus on what you are feeling inside of your body. What feels tense right now? Focus on that area and as you do imagine that you are slowly wringing out a warm, wet washcloth. The warm water runs down your hands and as it does it takes with it the tension that you are feeling, as you unfurl the washcloth imagine that you are unfurling the tension in your muscles. Do this until you feel more relaxed, notice your breathing, let it be deep and cleansing.
- Attitude of gratitude: This is an exercise that you can do at any time of the day, it can be most helpful at times when you are feeling like it is you against the world. When we feel defeated it is easy to move into a “why me” attitude. When we stay there long enough we begin to believe that the world and the people in our life are against us. When your attitude is critical try to find things to be grateful for. For example, let’s say you had a bad day at work, as you drive home you are frustrated, instead of replaying the scene in your head focus on the fact that you have a car that gets you to and from a job that helps you pay the bills with a little left over to do something you enjoy. Keep going and see how this changes your outlook.
- Get outdoors: This one goes without saying, anytime that you can get outside to breathe in some fresh air, and talk a walk do it!! The time out will do you good and may even help to get some endorphins coursing through your body. While you walk try to let go of the concerns of the day and be present in this moment. What do you see, hear, smell, and feel? Notice the color of the sky, the smell of the air, and the small things around you like flowers, trees, birds, and fellow humans. Now more than ever it is important to find safe places where you can take off your mask and take in some fresh air as often as you can!
These are just a few ideas to help with the difficult moments of your day. If you find that you continue to feel stuck or the lightning bolt that has interrupted your life feels insurmountable, Heartwood Online Counseling exists to help you find your way through the storm. In naming my counseling practice I spent countless hours trying to come up with a name that would encompass my devotion to God, my respect for His creation, and my desire to help others. Heartwood is the part of a tree that is dead, I know…strange connection to counseling, right? But there is more to it than that. The heartwood of a tree is the transformative part that over time provides the tree with the strength that it needs to stand tall in the storms. In dying, the heartwood gives life and strength to the tree, for those readers who have Christian beliefs you can see the parallel. The Son of God giving up His life as a ransom to save us and the Holy Spirit giving us the strength to overcome life’s challenges.
Reflecting back on the tree in the picture. There have been many experts that have suggested that the tree would not survive the direct hit, that in a few months it would begin to turn brown and die. I am happy to report that the tree still stands tall. The bark that blew off is long gone, yet, the tree stands tall. Exposed to the elements, yet, the tree stands tall. I hope that you can relate in some small way to the many storms you have encountered in your life, and by the strength within you, you still stand tall.