Standing like a tree challenge

“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;”

My dear friends, let me tell you a secret. I love trees. I’m even one of those weirdos that love hugging them. It gives me peace and it quiets my mind. Thus when I need my time alone, I go near them, they are my temple, their presence helps me to reconnect to myself and it nurtures me. This is why at the beginning of February I’ve decided to become one. No, I haven’t lost my mind, I meant it in a metaphorical way. I’ve embarked on a  28 days “standing like a tree” challenge. It was one of my new year resolutions to pick up a challenge and, as I didn’t see myself running any marathons yet, I’ve decided to choose something that I could do on my own, without any pressure from the outside. I also wanted something that would not invite any competitiveness inside me. Something that will take place far from the viewers’ eyes and it will turn my attention inwards. As a mom of toddler I’m always on the run, doing something, and I hardly get any time or space for my meditation, my yoga practice or myself. In a way, on a deeper level, I chose this challenge because I was intensely missing being connected to my inner self, the one where my hell and heaven are passionately dancing. I had therefore a lot of expectations from my “challenge”. I was expecting to bring stillness to my thoughts, some clarity with regards to my emotional baggage, but also an improved energy.

“Standing like a tree” is a fundamental Qi Gong (Zang Zhuang) practice that is meant to teach you to relax in posture and to help you gain strength. My teacher Sahaj Yogi explains very well in a YouTube video the “technicalities” of the posture. He also set up a Facebook group where he offered guidance and support for those following the challenge. Very simply put, the posture involves standing up, feet heaps-distance apart, with the knees slightly bent, arms round, as embracing a tree, and the chin slightly pulled in. Essentially the practice is a standing meditation that allows you to acknowledge the tension that exists in the body, but also at the mental level. Through awareness, you become accustomed to everything that happens inside you and, step by step, relaxing within discomfort becomes easier. One could rest in the posture from 12 to 40 minutes. I settled for 18 minutes, mostly done at the end of the day, when my house was finally quiet.

In the first couple of days I struggled a lot because of the tensions and the pain I felt in my body. When the physical tension seemed to fade away, I started noticing my emotions. It felt like behind the physical resistance there were a lot of repressed feelings and memories. I also noticed that both joy and sadness have equal powers to distract the stillness of the mind. Motionless seemed unbearable some days, but desirable in others. The practice gave me a better understanding of the nondual nature of my inner state. We always tend to judge our thoughts, pain or our emotions. This practice helped however to take a step further into accepting “myself” as it was. To give you one example, some days ago I had very strong pain, which seems to be produced by kidney stones. While being on the floor with excruciating pain, my improved  awareness helped me to relax. For a short moment, I was not attached to my pain, we were two separate entities. There was only awareness and a strong sense of shapelessness.

Today is the last day of my practice. Starting tomorrow it will only be upon me to continue it. My intention is to do it for an entire year or to develop it in a daily life-long one. I do have a bit more energy, I sleep better, I have more patience with whatever the moment brings. I am a bit more conscious about what happens inside my body and in my mind. I have also cultivated some more compassion as every day I tried to dedicate my practice to my family and friends, but also to my teacher and my beautiful community of trees.  In the end, the practice brought me precisely what I wanted: stronger roots and more flexible branches.

6 Replies to “Standing like a tree challenge”

  1. Thank you so much! That is a very inspiring piece you wrote there. You might even have planted a seed. I am considering to try out the posture for a couple of days. If it will give me half the fullfilment you have decribed, it is exactly what I need 🙂

  2. Everyone should be inspired by something or someone, and seemed like a Great experience to improve yourself!! Love you!

  3. Beautiful post! I’ve been slacking on my yoga practice, I did do a 30 day program. I definitely need to get back into it!!!

  4. “stronger roots and more flexible branches” – this is a beautiful metaphor. I wish I was able to accomplish this kind of challenge and reach the goal of bringing stillness to my thoughts, energy to my life and withdraw the pressure I am putting on myself without any rational reason. I believe there is a suitable challenge for everyone, we just need to find it. Thank you for showing me that I need to look for it, and more important even, not to give up. “Well done is better than well said.” (Benjamin Franklin). ps: I disclose being a tree lover as well 😉 There is nothing more beautiful in this world than nature. Gorgeous picture by the way 🙂

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