I know you read that title and said Dr. Sandra has gone completely woo woo! She has joined the tree huggers cult and this is her goodbye letter. Naw. That’s not it. Listen. Hear me out.
You know that I love studying ancient wisdom. Well, a common theme is that we learn from nature. I mean the ancients of Kemet (now called Egypt) created a whole language system with concepts based upon natural observations. That’s the same scientific method that I teach my introductory psychology students.
For example, in Kemet, the symbol for son is a duck. If you know anything about ducks or geese, when they hatch, they follow their parent. I’ve seen geese with a line of babies in tow stop traffic going in both directions.
And don’t children “follow in the footsteps of their parents”? Some of us take over the family business. Some of us look exactly like our parents. Some of us love to swim like our father or bike ride like our mother. So the duck as a symbol communicates what it means to be a son or daughter. Yes, a duck also represents daughter. The ancients simply added the symbol for the letter “t” to indicate the feminine child.
Ancient cultures also use the elements to guide understanding of everyday life, health, well-being, and purpose. Both the Dagara of western Africa and the Chinese use a five element system.
For the Dagara, the elements are Earth, Water, Fire, Nature & Mineral. One way the Dagara apply this system is in identifying one’s guiding life purpose, the work you came to the world to do. For example, Mineral people help us understand our purpose and they help bring people together. Sounds life a good one for a motivational speaker who wants to start a purpose-driven revolution for good. Or a teacher who wants to create a new educational approach that inspires children to love learning.
It might be obvious, but the Dagara say that even though we’re born into one element, we need all five to function well in our lives. The five work together so that we can reach peak performance, optimal energy levels for functioning. That is, we feel good moving about and doing our purpose everyday.
For the Chinese, the elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal & Water. Like the Dagara, the Chinese say we need all five elements working in balance with each other to create harmony in our lives.
The Chinese are well-known for using this system to enhance and support health. Each element is associated with a body system. For example,
Earth is related to the stomach. Like the Earth, our stomach receives and digests. If you live in a place that uses landfills, this is probably easy for you to understand. Like the Earth, our stomach takes what we give it and works to break it down.
So, we can learn from nature. Right? Agreed!
I just attended a great workshop on Five Element theory with Chinese medicine scholar & Qigong Master Nan Lu so I’m excited to share what I learned about courageous trees.
Root yourself – We need a source of nurturance. Trees begin as seeds. They gather sunlight and bathe in the rain. They grow roots and absorb nutrients from the earth to flourish. In the same way, our purpose roots us. Some call it our why. When we stand strong in our truth, we grow and flourish. We recognize the light within us is as brilliant as the Sun.
Grow and spread – Trees are about the business of growing. Their roots spread down and out into the earth. Their branches reach up and out into the sky. Even when a strong, threatening wind comes along, they keep growing. They bend. They may even sustain some breaks but they stand their ground and remain committed to growing, thriving, spreading their goodness. It’s their natural order.
Be flexible and go with the flow – Trees have a relationship with the wind. In fact, their movement tells us about the wind. When a strong wind comes along, they bend. They may release a few leaves or small branches or seeds into the wind. Even as their roots grow deeper, their branches and leaves sway. It’s a perfect balance. Ground yourself but keep moving. Maintain a free flow of energy.
Value yourself – If it happens that a strong wind takes down a tree, it simply transforms itself into fireplace wood or compost or jewelry boxes. No matter what, the tree knows it has something to offer. It gives us shade on a hot day. On a cold day, it provides fuel for the fire. It takes in the carbon dioxide that we exhale and gives us oxygen. It purifies our air so that we can breathe a little more easily. It’s a bona fide reciprocity warrior.
Trees live squarely in courage. They are committed to growing and spreading. When their growth is challenged by the wind, they get flexible and go with the flow. They don’t try to stand still and fight with the wind. They make friends and spread a little more.
It the wind pushes hard enough, you won’t be able to convince a tree to hold on to a branch or fall leaf. They know when it’s time to let go. They’re all about the greater good, the whole picture – growing and spreading. Trees will not be deterred from their mission.
Let the Fall trees make you feel colorful inside. Be reminded of the countless possibilities for progress. When a breeze comes, stand strong, go with the flow and keep growing. Branch out and spread your good.
© Sandra Y. Lewis