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Open Centre newsletter

How a Tree can show us how to live

Dear Shanga,

In this newsletter you will find a personal experience of dharma, how a tree can show us how to life, written by Beka.
A modern haiku (Zen poem expressing the dharma with the understanding less is more) attempt by Iris called Triangle.
And a beautiful poem from Rilke.


How a Tree can show us how to live

I have recently returned from the annual French yatra which some of us are familiar with.  If this is not familiar to you then yatra basically means pilgrimage and takes the form of walking single-file and in silence, like a meditation.  The dharma is explored in other ways whilst on the yatra, such as listening to teachings, group discussions and interactions with others, creative workshops, singing and music, two meditation periods each day or just by being in nature.  So, quite a diverse and rich programme this year.  I believe the intention is to continue in this way in the future.

The yatra, as always, provided me with many beautiful and nourishing moments, particularly through interactions with others and through connection with nature.  It was on the penultimate day of this event that I saw the tree.  Turning a corner to ascend towards our campground there it stood; a powerful, old and immense oak.  I could not take my eyes off it.

 Being a gardener I am familiar with working with trees (small ones anyway) and people working with  trees will talk about the ‘gesture’ of a tree; that it is important to really get a feel of the gesture of a tree so as to enhance it as the work, ie the pruning happens – working with nature not against it. What struck me was its presence and the way its inner gesture was expressed so effortlessly.  Something in the alignment of the branches, the sense of space in and around it, and the ease with which it reached out to the light, acknowledging the abundant sky above, free to receive the air which is its birthright, free to stand tall, firmly rooted into the earth.  The ability this organism had to receive what  life is offering and to be supported by it was one thing but as I drew closer I began to notice how it was supporting so many life forms itself, again without even trying; insects nesting in its bark, lichen, moss and ivy growing all around it, birds way up in the high branches and, of course, its own fruit (acorns) providing sustenance for small animals. 

As I continued to observe and behold this beauty I realised something quite profound: the tree does not decide how it should be, it just is.  I was moved greatly by this.  Indeed, simply to be with it was deeply moving.

Shortly after this I taught a yoga class where I made sure the tree was in full view.  It felt important to me that I shared the teaching of the tree.  From it I saw clearly what the essence of yoga and what it is to live fully:  to acknowledge that our roots are firmly connected to this earth and that we belong, that our birthright is to breathe clean air into our body and receive the nourishment necessary to sustain it, to be available to everything that life offers, to offer support freely and naturally and to express our inner gesture in a natural and spacious way so we reach our full potential as living beings.

May this be so for all being everywhere.

Aum shanti



A poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

I find you there in all things
I care for you like a brother.

A seed you are nestled in the smallest of them,
And in the huge ones spread yourself hugely.

Such is the amazing play of powers;
They give themselves so willingly,
Swelling in the roots,
Thinning as the trunks rise,
And the high leaves,


A soft, pure, single.. Ping… against my sacred bone.
Like the triangle in a big orchestra


Thank you all for your attention,
And if you like to share your dharma experience with the Sangha, don’t hesitate to send it to the open centre newsletter.
On behalf of the newsletter team,


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