As a child I spent the hours after school climbing in the Jacaranda tree in my backyard. Jacarandas are great trees to climb – they have smooth bark which doesn’t scratch too much and long spreading branches which are easy to shimmy along, swing off or slide down, and they don’t seem to house too many ants or biting insects.
Clearly a goal-setter from an early age, I would tie strips of fabric (torn from an old sheet which had been used in the cubby-house) around the highest branches that I could climb to. I would then regularly clamber up to those highest spots and attempt to go even higher, before exploring new pathways and possibilities.
My tree was also a source of comfort. Being the youngest child and having arrived a few years behind the rest I was often excluded from their games and instead discovered my own private world of peace, just me and my tree. I remember how comforting it was to rest my head against her strong thick limbs. I could feel the life there, feel the warmth of a living being; still but somehow breathing. Trees are present, reliable, solid and yet more yielding than stone.
Many years later I find myself living in the rainforest, surrounded by trees. There are huge Mahogany trees with enormous wide buttress roots which snake along the forest floor. Strangler Figs twist and turn around their host tree hoping to catch the sunlight and leaving a tangled web of winding roots in their wake. There are tall palms which sway in the afternoon breeze, Fan Palms with huge circular leaves and Coconut Palms just daring you to try to climb.
Outside my house there is a tall Alexandra Palm. It has a slender straight trunk, a vibrant mass of thick foliage at its crown and in August produces rich red berries which are adored by the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. One night I came home late and paused before going inside the house, sat down on the grass and looked up at the night sky which was thick with stars. Alexandra was framed against the celestial sky. From where I sat she was a towering presence, her ample fronds rustled in the cool evening breeze.
I closed my eyes. I centred my breath. In my mind’s eye I could still see her statuesque form, like a shadow outlined by heavenly sparkles. A gust of wind picked up and her fronds responded with a deep whisper, and then I felt her presence. As I merged my awareness with hers I felt the limitations of my humaness slip away and I was Tree – tall, straight, solid and free.
What I learned from Alexandra that night is that trees exist in Unity Consciousness. They do not experience themselves as seperate beings in the way humans or animals do. Although they exist in the physical world as distinct forms, their awareness extends far beyond their physicality. Alexandra’s awareness extends to the boundaries of this property, which is about five acres. Most importantly, she lives in a state of ecstatic union with her immediate environment.
It is clear that trees breathe or exchange gasses through their leaves. However what I experienced inside Alexandra’s awareness was also an energy exchange through the trunk. It was a flowing movement of energy, a communication or communion with the environment around her. It was sensual, effortless, spontaneous and ecstatic. Every cell of her being was aware, vibrant with life and intimately connected to everything around her.
So now I know Alexandra’s secret, and now so do you. Trees are all around us, and they know the secret to bliss. What’s more, they are willing to share. If experiencing ecstatic oneness is on your spiritual agenda, then I thoroughly recommend talking to trees.