Hugging (and Kissing) A Tree

“Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” ~ Herman Hesse

If hugging a tree is good for you, imagine what kissing a tree can do?

Seriously, did you know that hugging a tree increases levels of hormone oxytocin? This hormone is responsible for feeling calm and emotional bonding. When hugging a tree, the hormones serotonin and dopamine make you feel happier. Trees give us hope and insight, and courage to persevere – even in the harshest conditions. They also teach us to stay rooted while soaring to great heights. Trees remind us that letting go is a cycle that must happen in order to make space for the next cycle. A tree teaches us that longing for the previous season or competing with the other trees is a silly and wasteful way to spend our days.

For many years I felt I was I told a story that I was too busy to slow down and soak in the moment. I created a life that was minute to minute chaos. Now, I crave stillness and the result of a calm mind. I long for the smell of leaves that have fallen or the sweet whisper of a breeze along my face. I chose to walk away from the constant hum of a busy and demanding life for a the chance to take long, deep breaths and feel the connection to all that is.

Connecting with nature

By taking the time for my soul to connect with nature, I find myself better prepared to take on the struggles that can come from being alive. I know I am a better human being for choosing to step off the hamster wheel of constant striving and instead step into myself. There used to be something so revered about being busy, when in truth, it was all just a distraction to the inner work that needed to happen.

The tendency to create a busy life still crops up from time to time, but a quick stroll outside reminds me of the happiness that is inside of me. The home that is peaceful and calm.

I get to the feel the benefits of being close to a tree and I like to think that the tree smiles down when she gets a hug and kiss, too.

The Paradox

Emotions creep in at the most unexpected times. I dropped my girl off at her adult day program today and then had the most needed and lovely conversation with a dear friend. We covered a lot of terrain in our very honest conversation about pain, anger, disappointment, family, and the world. Although we did not solve any of these problems, it gave my heart peace knowing that I have someone amazing in my corner that gets it.

It is funny how this time of year always brings a set of emotions that range from grief to gratitude, and everything in between.  This time of year is a reminder of the death of many things, including people and dreams. This year especially I am finding myself even more in need for solitude as I navigate the sea of feelings that I seem to be experiencing.

I think back to a time two years ago when I witnessed the most beautiful moment as my sweet grand-baby took her first breath.  It was truly magical.  Within days of being consumed with a love I did not know existed, I learned of a couple sweet souls I had known in my work who took their very last breath. I was reminded again that within those two important breaths, life offers so much joy and an often an equal amount of pain. Ultimately it is what we do with both that makes our life have meaning.

Twenty seven years ago I lost a dream and gained a purpose. While on one hand having a child with a disability has been one of the hardest things I have done, it is also the source of my direction. So the paradox is one that I allow my mind to explore.

It is usually around my daughters birthday that I allow myself to ask the “what ifs”; what if she was typical, what if she was graduating college, what if she was getting married, what if she was having a baby, etc.  On the flip side of those questions I look at who she is and what she has given me; purpose, direction, unconditional love, simplicity, and a divine plan. I find myself asking those same questions recently as I witness friend’s daughters experiencing those major life events and my heart is conflicted with a tinge of jealousy and grief alongside genuine happiness to see their joy.

That is the death of a dream for me. And yet, I am grateful for the simplicity of my life with my daughter. These conflicting emotions seem to be evident in so many areas of life recently.

This paradox of life and death, grief and gratitude, loss and gain, joy and pain always finds me to be remarkable.  I suppose it is just like everything in life–temporary.  So that breath I just took in, I must also be let go.

And so is life.

I have decided yet again that the space between the first and the last is truly where LIFE exists–love, magic, connection, acceptance, passion and purpose. So, we must learn to lean into the joys and the pains because it is just part of what is.

I am incredibly grateful that I have had time along a trail and in the trees to figure all this out and makes sense and peace with what is.  What I have come to know is that all things happen as they should and it is a choice as to what I do with it.

Today, I choose gratitude for being given the gift of my girl. I choose gratitude for the friends that I have. I choose gratitude for nature to always ground me.

Most important today, I choose to remain aware of the space between the first and the last and commit to making my life the best it can be. Always.