What I Learned from the Trees


This time of year is so full with wonderful ways to connect and celebrate. It’s a season wild with the dichotomy of strangers being extra nice in the post office and then crazy in the parking lots. I know I fall into both the naughty and nice categories. Sorry, Honda Civic, in the Sprouts parking lot!

This time of year can also be a time of stress, anxiety and overindulgence in all the things, you know what I mean? Do you find yourself on the brink of losing it, or so over-committed you can’t see straight? Or, perhaps you just want to make sure to carve out space to savor this special time of year. If you are in any of those boats, we feel you!

It’s times like these that I gain guidance from the natural environment. This month I invite you to join me in drawing inspiration from deciduous trees. Thank goodness for trees! Our steady companions whom, with any luck, will far outlive us. “Sooo, be like a tree? Is that what you are saying?” If that sounds too far fetched then just use it as inspiration. Even in sunny San Diego we see some trees preparing for winter. Conifers and eucalyptus have needles or leaves with a waxy surface which allows them to stay healthy during times of less light and cooler temps. Of course conifers remain evergreen but even in winter they make transitions to stay healthy. Deciduous trees are very expressive in their preparations so we will highlight them today.

Leaves are the “money maker” for trees by taking the sunlight and converting it to food. When the light wanes and the thermostat drops deciduous trees begin to conserve their energy. They pull all the nutrients from the leaves and store it in the trunk of the tree. This process makes the leaves slowly change color. Once all the nutrients have been absorbed the pathway from the branch to the leaf is sealed off, and the leaf stem dries up and then eventually releases from the branch. To put this more simply, trees know how to self regulate in times of varying energy. How freaking cool?! Please allow me a moment to nerd out on this. I love the image of the energy within the tree literally being pulled into its core. 

So how does this offer guidance to us? The demands on our energy this time of year are great. However, we naturally have less energy in the late fall and winter months. Our body’s rhythms are calling us to do less and rest more. However we don’t always allow ourselves to do that. Okay, let’s get real, it can sometimes feel impossible to do that. Here is where the trees come in. Trees give us a blueprint to create a different way of being and experiencing this time of year. They show us how to say what a dear sister friend calls the “sacred no”. So my big dare for all of us, is to say no this holiday season. At least once.

Before your mind is filled with all the reasons you have to do all the things and you battle your own FOMO (fear of missing out), I have a little gift for you. Take 3 minutes and try this:

  • Close your eyes

  • Place one hand on your heart

  • Take 3 breaths counting in for 4 and out for 4 counts.

  • Locate the source of your inner fire within your body and place the other hand there.

  • Breathe with intention again - gently and luxuriously - 3 times in and out 

  • Imagine how you want to feel this holiday season and how you want to feel when it’s over. Really feel it and color in the outline of this vision in your imagination.

  • Take another breath and savor this image.

  • Think of one thing on the “should list” for this holiday season and imagine it as a leaf dangling from your finger tips.

  • In your imagination watch it as it goes from vibrant green to red, to orange and then to brown.

  • With your next inhale close off the pathway between your “should” leaf and your fingertip. With the exhale imagine it breaking away and drifting to the floor. 

  • Notice how it feels to have released this “should”. What has shifted in your body and in your energy center?

  • Take a few more breaths just to be in this space and when you are ready come back to the room.

Artwork by: Jessica Boehman

Artwork by: Jessica Boehman

What did you notice in the exercise? How did it feel to let the leaf go? How can you take this experience and play with it in your daily life this season?

This is your giant permission slip to practice a “sacred no” this holiday season. Try it just once to start. Does it feel impossible? Connect with your breath again and remember how you want to feel at the end of this holiday season. Explore how letting something fall away supports this vision. Maybe it means getting creative with how things look. For example, maybe it’s moving quality time with loved ones earlier or later in the New Year...maybe you can just let the leaf go and trust it will be composted by the earth and used for something new.

Remember, there is just this moment. What gives you joy? What fills your well? Where can you find moments to savor and be present? It’s your one brilliant life. It’s worth it.