Do you remember that book, The Giving Tree? I read it as a child, and I found myself thinking today about it. Shel Silverstein’s ability to write for children and adults is astounding. It’s an ageless, timeless lesson that is always good to remember. And it flowed into my thoughts as I was heading home from a family dinner.
When I was teaching my 1.5 class a couple of days ago, I focused on vrksasana, tree pose. I was reading about it and the idea of tolerance was suggested (tree metaphors are numerous, rooting, branching out, strength in stability combined with flexibility of motion, etc.). I had not really considered tolerance as a tree metaphor and was intrigued. When I meditated on it things like, tolerance of the crazy squirrels that jump from branch-to-branch, tolerance of the nesting birds cuddling into the leaves, tolerance in the form of still giving shade to those who pull off leaves, branches, or even cut the whole tree down came into mind. Tolerance of the wind as it sings through the branches and leaves…Tolerance with ourselves as we sway while trying to balance on one foot…tolerance of others as they shake our emotions and challenge our thoughts. Tolerance for those closest to us who have nestled in and have become comfortable and perhaps a two-way street of taking advantage has blossomed.
So much tolerance a tree can teach us. Being gentle with ourselves as we root to rise, standing tall and strong, and yes maybe swaying a little in the posture…and in life. A tree stands in one place yet there can be so much commotion surrounding it. Just as we are standing at the center of our lives, and our relationships, jobs, hobbies, etc. surround and color our lives. Tolerance…what an amazing thought. It’s the beautiful way of agreeing to disagree, accepting without judgement, loving without limits. And it was that thought that brought me to The Giving Tree. That tree gave everything she had to the boy as he needed things…and I can’t recall (that’s not to say it didn’t happen), the boy ever saying thank you to the tree. And isn’t that a form of tolerance? Giving without expecting anything in return. The tree posture is about finding your balance and strength while remaining standing and through that opening yourself (and your hips) up for tolerance.
It can be such a challenge to be tolerant in this world. Such a challenge to take a step back to adjust your perspective to see from where another is coming and to draw on the compassion of the anahata chakra. Perhaps even more of a challenge, to put aside the differences and to see the gifts that people do provide us in life…the gift of a smile, the gift of a hug, the gift of a calming presence. I think tolerance can teach us to see the beauty in others, not just our differences. Tolerance allows us to truly hear and see people by releasing our own need to be right, or to push our opinions, or to be heard…and instead quieting our own self and opinions, to allow that need in someone else to be met. Tolerance is our gift to each other.
Much appreciation to my Saturday students who ignited this thought, to my sister who reminded me, my beloved who talked it through with me, and everyone who has ever given the gift of tolerance to me.