summer practices

By Annalisa Bragg


Let’s dig into a little deeper into the idea of a tree as a model for balance.  Balance is fluid, flexible, and subject to our surroundings. It is also an area that requires our awareness and attention. Revisiting the concept of the tree as a model for balance, I want to share a few observations about the structure of the tree.



First, there are the roots, vast and expansive and hidden.  Then the trunk, the interface with the world, and the structural support for the tree organism.  Next are branches, followed by smaller limbs, all ending with leaves, flowers, and fruit (seeds). Occasionally, a branch dies off and is either trimmed away or breaks off with the wind.  Assuming there are no fungal or insect invasions, no major physical stress to the tree, the tree grows strong and healthy, reaching for the light, it’s arm upraised, almost in praise.

In the illustration below, notice how the roots are as vast and large as the tree itself.  The trunk is strong and true, and the branches reach out in a balanced way, supporting the leafy crown.  As above, so below comes to mind.

summer practices

Photo by Jeremy Bishop

Now, consider how the roots are below ground – seeking nourishment, growing deep, providing structural support, mirroring the grandiosity of the tree itself.  They lie both shallow and deep underground, hidden, in the dark (with the exception of mangroves and occasional roots that emerge and run along the ground) and quietly do what they do unappreciated and often unnoticed.


Similarities and Differences

Like a tree, we have a body (trunk), arms and legs (limbs), and a head (crown).  We have fluids moving around within us to carry nourishment and wastes to the appropriate places.  We respirate, exchanging gases with the environment around us. And, we are capable of selflessly sharing our gifts with the world – consider Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree -bringing our highest good to fruition for the betterment of the world.

Unlike a tree, we don’t have physical roots, only emotional, mental, and energetic ones.  But those emotional, mental and energetic roots can run just as deep as a tree’s to support us in budding, blooming and producing juicy fruit.  The questions then become, how do I nourish my own roots to feed my growth? How can I support the balance of growth in all areas of my life? Are my roots subconsciously dictating how I am growing?

And like a tree’s roots, it requires us to dive deeply into our underground soil, those dark and shadowy places, to ask ourselves some deep questions to consider.  Yes, this process can get dirty, messy, even painful, and feel laborious. But it is our one wild and precious life, and we are the only ones who can do this work.

What do you plan to do with this one wild and precious life?

-Mary Oliver


Nourishing our Roots

Roots draw up nourishment from the soil.  From minerals in the soil to water below ground, the tree employs this embedded system to partially feed itself.  Partially, because the leaves are also providing nourishment for the tree through the process of photosynthesis and respiration.  There is balance in the way in which the tree is fed, from top and bottom.

As humans, we, too, are fed from top and bottom.  Using the example of the practice of Japanese bonsai, consider how careful pruning and tending can create a work of beauty and integrity.

Looking at our own roots, we can figure out what is nourishing and ‘trim away’ any unhealthy roots that are not supporting our growth.  We can work with deep inquiry into patterns, habits and beliefs that may or may not be helping us grow. What are we tapping into that is no longer useful?  How can we change the direction of our taproot to be a tool for our own growth and fruition?

There are many ways to do this.


Listen – are you breathing just a little

And calling it a life?

~Mary Oliver


Supporting Balance

The first step is becoming aware, growing still and quiet, and being willing to dig deep into the earthiness of our existence.  Be curious about what and where your roots are drawing nourishment.

That can be as simple as lying down in a place where you won’t be disturbed for 10-20 minutes, or however long you wish to pursue the inquiry.  You can use your favorite visualization for drawing you into a meditative state or work with this simple one:


Allow yourself to become grounded.  Feel your body settling into your space and connect with your breath. Breath flowing in, and breath flowing out… Feel gratitude for the gift of life you are experiencing right now…  Connect with your heart, and feel a steady thrum in your chest. Feel that same thrum pulsing in your arms and hands, your legs and feet… Tap into your higher power… Settle into this space of connection, and breathe into it.  Then, as you feel ready, begin asking these questions:


  • How is my spiritual life supporting me?  Is there enough of a practice to sustain/nourish me?
  • Is my health in a state of equilibrium? If not, what are the exact steps for me to come into equilibrium?
  • What foods and beverages are providing optimum nutrients for me?  Is anything amiss?
  • Is work/life balance present for me?
  • Am I fulfilled in my relationships? How can I bring greater balance here?
  • Am I learning all that I want to learn?  Do I feel stimulated mentally? What one or two things can I commit to learning in the immediate future to feed my heart and soul?
  • What is the physical environment I thrive in?  Is it present for me? If so, how can I nourish it further?  If not, what are the steps I can take to create my optimum environment?





Visit our Discover What You Need page to help guide you in creating balance in all the areas of your life that ask for attention.

Live It  

Go outside and find a tree that speaks to you.  Step into the tree’s presence and feel it with closed eyes, breathing with the tree.  You are truly communing with the tree now, as you are literally sharing breath with each other.  Wait for an invitation to draw closer. When you feel it, move to the trunk of the tree.

Putting your hands on the trunk, gaze up.  Breathe deeply as you allow your eyes to trace the trunk, the branches, the limbs, moving outward.  Are there lichens growing on the bark? What is the branching pattern of the tree? Observe the leaves – what do you notice?  Drink in all the colors represented.

Lean into the tree, touching the bark, feeling the roughness or smoothness of the tree’s skin.

Breathe deeply of the tree’s scent – is it green?  Earthy? Pungent? Nutty? Neutral?

Have a seat at the base of the tree, leaning against the trunk.

Gently lean your forehead against the tree.  Pause here, breathing, tuning into the tree – what thoughts, feelings, or images pop to mind?

In this quiet space, ask if the tree has a message for you.  Quietly ‘listen.’

Before departing the tree’s presence, if inspired, practice tree pose.


In Conclusion

In looking at our lives, we strive for balance.  Balance requires our awareness and our attention.  And like in any beautiful piece of music, certain instruments have their moments to shine, just like certain areas of our lives, to make a whole complete, synchronous symphony.  The point is, are we cultivating our best selves by bringing our awareness and attention to all the important areas of our lives?

Consider this quote by Jana Kingsford:

Balance is not something you find.

It is what you create.

So, what are you creating?


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