The Gift of the Banyan Tree

I'm back from Mexico and sorting through the gifts and lessons of my time away. I do that. I like to look at my life as if it were a waking dream, rich with symbolic import. It helps to bring a sense of deeper meaning to the unfolding of my life (yes, even the most challenging, unwanted bits). 

I began my sorting process by unpacking the array of Mexican pottery and textiles I brought home. I placed each on my dining room table, savoring their unique design, form, texture, and color. As I held each one in my hands, I felt the memories of my time off the grid arranging themselves in my awareness, as if they too were beloved objects to savor. 

All my memories gathered around a Banyan tree and  Elizabeth Lesser's book Broken Open

Each morning I would sit and read Lesser's book by an enormous Banyan tree.  I was so enthralled by this tree, that I researched its symbolism. (Yes, I did use my friends computer to do this - so, technically, I was breeching my off the grid status.) The Banyan tree is sacred in East Asia. It is said that one who knows this tree, is the knower of wisdom. It represents that which is eternal in all of us; deeply rooted, resilient, enduring. It was often the place, under which, philosophical teachings would be imparted. The Buddha is believed to have achieved enlightenment under a species of the Banyan. 

Heady stuff.  Mythology, lore, superstition, truth - whatever, this tree was speaking to me and I was listening. My research simply confirmed what I already sensed; this tree was one ancient and wise energy. Just sitting by it, I felt connected to what was enduring, eternal, deeply rooted and resilient within me. 

This shift from ego-irritation zone to Banyan tree zone was an amazing gift, considering that even though I was on vacation, my immediate environment was wrought with both interpersonal drama and socioeconomic hardship. There was plenty of opportunity for me to get all crazy about how I wasn't having the perfect vacation time due to the rumblings of human suffering around me. But with uncanny consistency, all I had to do was to return to the Banyan tree and the message to get over myself and root deeply in compassion (aka wisdom in my book) would wash over me. 

Elizabeth Lesser's book was another reminder that life is rich (yes, rich!) with challenges and hardships. No way to avoid the crucible of experiences that rock us to our core (even when on vacation). When bad stuff happens to good people it doesn't mean we are not co-creating our lives in the proper way - it just means we are being called out to hone qualities and strengths within us; being broken open to a larger/deeper sense of ourselves and our life-purpose.  Lesser's style of writing is conversational and intimate. She shares her own challenges along with the fiercely inspiring stories of others. Through the events that rocked the foundations of her life (and bearing loving witness to those of others) she learned that we can either crash and burn in the fire of our trials or rise out of the ashes. Of course, she naturally calls this rising out of the ashes option - the Phoenix Process and offers guideposts and tools for how to navigate our most formidable life-experiences.  

As it turned out, my vacation irritations were the tame precursor to some heftier challenges awaiting me upon my return home. But the memory of the Banyan tree and Lesser's wise counsel became my solid ground to stand on as I embraced my own Phoenix Process. Life is like that. Gifts are offered just when we need them. We only have to recognize them when they come knocking at our door. 

We all need a Banyan tree. We all need to be reminded to get over ourselves and open to a larger, more compassionate-wisdom-zoned perspective. It is enormously freeing to release our rigid hold on 'has to be this way or that way for me to be happy' - whether on vacation or in the flow (or not so flow) of our daily lives.

I also invite you to know deep in your bones - that when it feels like you have entirely lost your way and circumstances seem to conspire to bring you to your knees, you are actually in the throes of a powerful and transformative Phoenix Process. As Lesser writes: "If I could distill all the great writings on suffering down to a few words, I would simply say that suffering and crisis transform us, humble us, and bring out what matters most in life." (pg. 89). 

Our most unwanted, ragged and painful experiences can act as catalysts for amazing growth; can break our hearts wide open, revealing our true foundation: light, hope, meaning, and joy (pg.83). 

Perhaps rising out of the ashes is yet another way to......



  1. I loved this post!
    and even more I love the name of your blog.
    leaping, jumping, an activity children do so often and we, as adults forget so often.
    Leaping to sleep now...
    Miry Kornhauser


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