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I often take walks in the woods near my home.
It’s a refreshing break from the bustle of daily life. The towering oak trees hover above me with an eerie calm.
I always delight in the occasional signs of wildlife: a humming beetle, the flap of an owl’s wings, a bat stumbling at dusk.
But I would’ve never thought that the stoic trees were as active as the animals…
I recently picked up Peter Wohlleben’s book The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World. After reading only several pages, my view of trees radically changed.
We’re all trying to do our best in these chaotic times. Perhaps trees can teach us how to feel more at peace with ourselves and better take care of each other.
Read on to discover 3 life lessons we can learn from trees…
1) Living slowly has surprising benefits
Something curious happens when a caterpillar munches on a leaf of beeches, spruce and oaks.
The tissue of the leaf around the bite changes and sends out electrical signals. Our body also sends out electrical signals when it registers pain. However, the signal in leaves is transmitted at the speed of a third of an inch per minute.
So it takes about an hour for defensive compounds to arrive at the leaf and shoo away the caterpillar.
When a part of a tree’s structure is in danger, the tree broadcasts this information and triggers the leaves to emit scent compounds that resist attacks.
Another marvelous example: When giraffes nibble on acacias, the trees send toxic substances to their leaves and emit a gas to warn neighboring acacias. These latter trees then send toxic substances to their leaves as well. As a result, the giraffes move much further away!
This made me chuckle, as I contemplate how fast our own lives march. We tend to underestimate the importance of rest and play. Our society breeds the scarcity mindset, so we all feel the need to rush throughout the day.
I try to remind myself that moving slowly is okay.
Coming from an abundance mindset helps us take aligned actions with less effort and more joy.
2) Caring for each other is vital
Trees of the same species help each other out.
The well-being of each tree contributes to the well-being of the forest.
If weaker trees were lost, it’d leave gaps in the forest, inviting in too much humidity or sunlight. This could uproot the trees or parch the forest floor. Every tree plays an important role in this delicate microclimate.
Most trees of the same species growing in the same area share complex root systems. This lets them exchange nutrients and nourish weaker trees. When a tree needs more support, the surrounding trees offer assistance.
That’s how a forest thrives with trees that live for hundreds of years.
What if we made more effort to take care of each person? What would we have to heal to live this lifestyle that’s so natural for trees?
What if we could see the important role that we play in the grand scheme of things?
3) Prioritize what’s most important
Trees pay attention to their energy levels and prioritize what’s most important.
It takes energy to grow: trees stretch their branches, enlarge their trunks, give off defensive compounds to repel pests and propagate.
Beeches and oaks blossom every 3 to 5 years and produce such great numbers of beechnuts and acorns at this time that all other tasks are put on hold.
The leaves fall off to make room for the blossoms. Less sugar is produced as a result, which chips into the trees’ daily needs and winter supply. This process exposes the beeches to beetle attacks.
Usually, energy would be used to make the leaves bitter and fight off the beetles. But during the blossoming season, that’s not possible. Healthy trees are able to recuperate from the impact.
I’ve learned so much about the importance of time management—and how it can be linked to past wounds, leaving me feeling not good enough and working much harder than necessary.
On my best days, I feel relaxed and joyful as I work. Sometimes, I still can’t believe that I have more than enough time to complete my tasks.
The quality of our lives depends on how wisely we expend our energy.
Let the trees show us the way
I’m stunned by the beauty, power and wisdom of trees. What other mysteries will we discover about them?
It humbles me to learn how these silent giants live. Now I see them in an entirely different way.
I highly recommend getting the book, The Hidden Life of Trees, for more fascinating life lessons we can learn from trees.
If we just slowed down and paid attention to the wonder of nature, we could perhaps find a way to become more loving humans.
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