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Messages on Growth

ideas to ponder and practice

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How to heal ourselves and the planet we live on


Once there was a man of good intention and many lines in his mind.
For the man the world was simple – black or white, with him or against him, intelligent or foolish. His name was William.  He was known by his family and friends as – Will the Stubborn. One day he was walking in the woods and he heard a voice say, “Hello?” Startled he looked around from side to side seeing no one.

“Hello,” said the voice. “Who is there?” yelled Will. “Come out!” The voice seemed to be coming from behind the old tree almost 50 paces away. “Come out from behind the tree,” said Will. “Hello,” again said the voice. No one was there that Will the Stubborn could see. “Where are you?” yelled Will. The voice said, “I am here right in front of you.”
Will could see no one. Becoming very anxious he fled down the trail. Will of course did not believe in magic.

A week later, needing to go to the home of friend and running late, Will took the short cut through the woods. As he approached the clearing, he ran as fast as he could brushing past the tree. He heard nothing. The man was both relieved and surprised. He had fully expected to hear the deep full voice say hello again. Feeling much more relaxed now. He began to use the path again through the woods. Several weeks later, on approaching the clearing one day, he stopped to look at the tree. At over two hundred feet tall it was clearly one of the oldest trees in the forest.

As he slowly shuffled past the tree, a deep voice said, “So I see you are not in a hurry today.” Will jumped several feet off the ground, his heart racing at the sound of the voice. “Who are you? What trick is this?” “No trick,” said the tree. The voice seemed to come directly from the tree. The man could see no wires or a speaker, nor was anyone up in the tree.

“I must be losing my mind”, he said, “a tree can not talk!” “Then how do you explain my words?” said the tree. “Trees can not talk!” screamed the man. This is madness.” And again the man fled the woods.

This experience was a great burden for him to carry, for he could tell no one, not

even his wife for fear that they would think him crazy. The man knew what had happened was impossible. A tree can not talk. Trees have no brain, no visible means to speak. It was just a tree, merely living wood, good for building and heating homes. His wife noticed that he seemed upset and distracted and she worried about him. After carrying his burden in silence for many months the man made a big decision. He went into the forest with an axe. He would cut down this tree and put an end to all of this nonsense.

As he approached the clearing he heard nothing. With great resolve he approached the tree and swung his axe. The axe bit deep into the bark. He did this several times and realized it was going to be hard work and take a long time to cut down such a large tree, Having never cut down a tree before, he continued to swing the axe, having now created a three inch cut into the bark.

As he swung the axe again, the tree said, “Why do you seek to injure me?” Startled the man swung the axe even harder. Again the tree said, “Why do you seek to injure me?” He had prepared for this and pushed cotton deep into his ears. Again the tree said, “Why do you seek to injure me?” The man still heard the voice. “Human what have I done that you would seek to do me harm?”

The man fell to his knees holding his hands over his ears. Rocking back and forth he thought, ‘This can’t be happening. The voice in side my head it can’t be happening.’

The tree sensing the man’s distress said, “Is it so hard to believe I am speaking to you? If my voice creates so much pain for you then I will stop talking.”

The man stopped rocking, realizing that the tree was sensitive to his distress. ‘What is happening to me?’ he thought. Trying slowly to come to terms with the possibility that all of this might true and that it was not all in his mind, for the first time he addressed the tree directly. “What do you want from me?” There was silence. The man raising his voice, said more loudly, “What do you want from me?” annunciating each word individually and slowly.

After a time the tree spoke and said, “ I chose to greet you. I do not want.” “But why me, why now?”, cried the man. “I noticed you and said hello. The others said I was foolish and no good would come from this,” said the tree to the man. “The others? They can all talk? “If they chose to,” the tree responded.

“I do not believe any of this, said the man. If what you say were true than many

others would talk and many other people would hear them talk. This wouldn’t be just happening to me,” stammered the man. “They simply chose not to talk,” said the tree. “We only speak when we chose. If I had known this would be so upsetting to you then I also would have chosen differently.” “ I just don’t understand. This is all so impossible.”

“Well,” said the tree.

“This is the first time I have tried to talk to a human. Now I realize why no one does it. Maybe this is why you have never heard of any other humans who trees talk to? “Mostly we listen and grow. That seems to be enough. We provide for the forest that is our form,” said the tree to the man.

“Tell me human, -- what is your form? What is it that you do?” Will the stubborn was very, very quiet. He had no answer. So he asked a question. “What do you mean,” he said. “What do I, What do we do?,” he barked at the tree. “What is your form?” the tree simply repeated. After some silence, the tree said, “How is it that you provide? “We, the trees, provide shelter for the animals. We enrich the soil. We hold it in place, stabilizing the earth. We clean the air.”

The man thought and then said, “Well we create music. We have art. We build things.”

“I do not know the word art or music. Tell me human, who lives in these things you build? Do you provide shelter for other species?”

The man explained that humans have families and children to provide for and the buildings were places to work and gather. “Art and music make people happy, well at least some of the art and music do,” said the man.

After a time the tree said to the human, “So humans provide for other humans.” “Yes,” said the man, “that is right.” “So you provide for yourself and no others. I must ponder this,” said the tree. “Let us speak again.”

Each day the man returned, but the tree did not speak again. No matter what he

did the tree did not speak. It seemed to surprise the tree that “humans” only provided for themselves and no other. The man could of course come up with other examples. The veterinarian took care of animals. Many people had pets. The land conservancy was trying to stop building and preserve open land, or business like the National Audibon Society. Yet, when he thought more about it humans for the most part provided for themselves. And in some cases he could think of, they did not take care of other humans at all. In fact, as the man read the newspapers and watched TV, he started to realize it all went beyond this. Not only did humans only provide for themselves (and not always then), this one done in a manner that was diminishing (sometimes rapidly) other species and resources. Humans took care of themselves by diminishing others, both human and non-human.

Often he came back to the tree and told it what he was learning about himself and other humans. Always there was silence. He missed the tree’s voice. As he would sit and talk to the tree, he would pretend that the tree was listening to him.

The man started to change things about how he lived his life, slowly at first. He made sure to donate money to those people who provided for the land and species other than humans. He would now tend the trees on his property, cleaning out dead branches, fertilizing them regularly. Secretly he hoped one might say something to him. His small piece of property over time became lush and green and alive. From here he became an advocate of land conservancy and forest preservation. He no longer went everyday to the tree. The space of his visits grew longer and longer.

The man always asked the questions in every situation he was in, What do you need? How can I provide? Over the years he became very good at listening, as the tree had told him they did, speaking only when he had something to say. Those that knew him as a young man, found the changes remarkable.

About twenty years had passed since the tree had spoken with him. One day the man returned to clearing, intent to talk with the tree and tell the tree of his most recent work and learnings. As always, he told the tree his deepest thoughts and feelings, explaining his experiences and then speak his questions. He would then sit quietly and imagine the tree’s answers and questions to him. He found great comfort in this.

Several years later on a warm day in October, as he sat by the tree looking up at the multicolored leaves he heard a familiar voice. “Hello human.” The man jumped, startled at hearing the voice after so many years. He was speechless, having given up hope of ever hearing that voice again. “Hello,” was all he could manage.

“I have pondered the form of humans,” the tree said. “When we first spoke human, you told me of the form that humans take. I found this very confusing and disturbing. There are as many humans as trees on this earth and you only provide for yourselves. You improve little and in many places on this earth you harvest everything, everything. Yet, in you I see a spark of hope. It is good that I pondered this, for if I had not, we would have never spoken again. I have listened to your stories and see many changes in you.”

The man responded, “Couldn’t you have answered me just once. It has been over twenty years since we last spoke.” The tree replied, “What are years?” “You know like your rings, years, seasons, time.” The man realized the tree would only know about growth rings if the tree had seen another tree cut in half. “Seasons, he said, “Seasons when the leaves fall off and then grow back.”

“Yes,” the tree said, numerous cycles of spring of my leaves growing and falling off have passed. I do not count these . You call them years?, murmured the tree. I do not understand your concern. “I listened to you well and included all that you said in my pondering, “The moment was right, you are here, you were not talking and so I wish to ask a question. This is why I speak now.

“Tell me human, how did you change your form? And how do you see and accept my true form now, when before I was invisible to you?” “Well,” said the man. I think differently than before, for one thing. You were just a tree of no consequence to me.” Looking down at the old scar where he had cut a gouge deep into the bark he grimaced, “Now I see you as a wise person.” “Yes, but how did this happen?” the tree pressed the man. For this I believe is key. I/We have no experience changing form. We are as we are.”

The man thought about this. Again it was another hard question. “For a long time I kept remembering what you said to me, ‘So you provide for yourself and no others.’ I started to notice examples of this all around – of the truth of this wherever I went. Somehow it didn’t seem right. There was wrongness about this, that humans should just use things. And that most of us humans live in a way that provides for themselves at the expense of others.”

“So, I spoke the truth and you saw the truth in it?” “Yes,” replied the man. “Before this happened something else occurred. In the beginning when I first spoke, you thought me to be a trick or the creation of your mind. I was just a thing, not a consideration, you said to me . How did you come to consider me, so that you could even hear my truth? So that you could begin to learn and see examples of the truth around, so that you could chose differently your actions, so that ultimately you could change form? “All this hinges on you seeing experiencing me not as your version of my form, but my version of my form.”

The man was amazed. He had never heard the tree speak for so long. It was a beautiful song and he wished it would just continue. “I do not know,” said the man, how this happened. One day I came to cut you down and put an end to my madness, when you spoke and asked, ‘why did you wish to injure me human?’ for a moment I glimpsed another possibility might exist.”

“Yes,” said the tree. “We call this shifting the lines.” “Shifting the lines, said Will? “Yes, shifting the lines. We have always known the earth to be one mass. There are no boundaries. It is oneness. The water flows through the land. We feel this through our roots and connection to the air. In our consciousness we still feel separate. Yet are physical existence knows that we are one with the earth. We both provide and are provided for in perfect symmetry. Yet the energy of our consciousness draws lines and says it is separate, that it is not the earth. It is part of the function of our consciousness to preserve itself, not lose its identity. So it draws lines to separate.

“For a time before humans came here to the earth, we tried to rid ourselves of our consciousness. It is part of us still and we could not end it, other than by going to sleep. Some of us did. Others learned to shift the lines. By learning to shift the lines we realized that we could more and more experience new possibilities and more oneness. I shifted lines the other trees would not to speak to you.”

“What you are saying is beyond my understanding,” said the man.  “I am just a human and do not have the trees’ wisdom. I can see that my own lines, as you call them, about what the form of a tree is, were in my mind. My lines about your form were hard and fast and very thick. They let no light into see it any other way. This is a very powerful idea of shifting the lines, the lines which my mind creates. Since I met you, I have learned many new things and without realizing it I have shifted some lines, concerning what I think is important and what I care about. I suspect that this new thought you have given me of ‘shifting the lines,’ of the existence of lines, that I create in my consciousness needs to be pondered. And it needs to be nurtured and grown. Much in the same way as the idea that you gave me 20 years ago. The idea that humans only provide for themselves.”

“I just hope we can talk a bit more often about this idea then we did the first idea you offered me. I realize now that you take a long time to ponder, but it would have been so nice to hear your voice.”

The tree laughed. The man had never heard a tree laugh before. “Why are you laughing?” asked the man. When the laugh was finished, the tree said – “You think I was silent all that time because I was pondering. I was silent because I was listening and wanted to allow you the space to finish, I did not want to interrupt your pondering.”


A Short Summary of the Story

  1. 1.Human beings listen with more than their ears.

  2. 2.One phrase capturing and idea can create great change for one person or many people.

  3. 3.Given some encouragement and support people are naturally inclined to be “in

  4. 4.Sometimes confusion, (being upset, or scared) is the pathway to be “in learning.”

  5. 5.The reason one phrase can create change is because of the Principle of Resonance.

  6. 6.The student does all the work.

  7. 7.The teacher’s role is to strike the bell of truth as best she or he can.

  8. 8.Listening is one of the strongest invitations to learning a teacher can offer to a

  9. 9.Whenever you can, encourage pondering.

  10. 10.Almost everyone can see an idea from the front. This is the most common way to see.

  11. 11.Some people are very good at seeing what is behind an idea. This is the second form of sight.

  12. 12.Those in deeper learning can see at least one side of an idea discerning the side effects (smile).

  13. 13.Pondering allows the idea to float in space so that it may be examined and
    discerned from all sides and angles.

  14. 14.To see above and below an idea is to know the past and future. Pondering is a
    practice to be cultivated.

  15. 15.When someone is deep “in knowing,” a challenge to this knowing can be often
    met with violence, either physical or emotional. In this instance resonance is sensed and rejected. If the resonance persists the solution is to stop or eliminate the source of resonance.

These are the points of learning and discovery in the story of the “Tree and the Man.”

Sometimes people are not aware of how they limit themselves from experiencing possibilities that are surrounding wherever they travel. In this simple story a man learns about the “lines” he carries with him that shape his experience and his actions. A tree asks him wonderful questions that he uses to change his life.  This of course is the nature of really good questions.