Sit like a tree, without desires.
In conversation recently with a friend who is a linguist and ecologist I learned that the words “true” and “tree” are cognate. Drus is the ancient Greek word for “oak”; dris is Sanskrit for “tree”; “tree” and “Druid” in English are related (a Druid is a “tree-person” or “tree–worshipper”), and tree and true come from one and the same Indo-European root, which shows up across western Eurasia.
This offers a way of taking out the stinger from the word “true,” which has often been coopted for violent ends. History shows how claims to absolute “Truth” whether in religion or politics or other spheres, easily leads to idolatry, absolutism, fundamentalism and as a natural consequence, violence. But if instead “true” means “tree-like,” it may be a re-usable word once more: a tree is rooted, upright, with branches that spread outward into the environment, sensitive to what they find. Wind, dust, sunlight, moonlight, nutrients, odors, rain, sounds, many other beings. Sometimes you can just “see” trees enjoying the air, the light, the life around them, almost shivering or shimmering with sensitivity to their surroundings.
Upright, rooted, sensitive to the world around us: isn’t that a reasonable description of sitting practice? Rooted in our practice, rooted in our seat, aware of our contact with the earth, of its gravity working down through us. Upright spine, relaxed, balanced, erect. And our senses open – to the soundscape, to the atmosphere, clothing and mat. Open to the events that arise in the mind and heart. Open to the sensations of the breath.
“True” practice: true like a tree.
Buddha once said: “Sit like a tree, without desires.”
Message from Henry taken from our August 9, 2016 Newsletter
Image by Rosa Bellino, used with her permission