Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.
from Our National Parks by John Muir (1901)
It is in a tree’s nature to grow up, every year, adding another ring and becoming a more rooted version of itself. Humans are like trees. We are also designed to grow up. It may well be the very purpose of life.
Growing up is not to be confused with aging. Getting older is inevitable. Growing up requires intention and awareness. It’s the difference between “turning” 30 or 45 or 82 and “becoming” a fuller expression of who you are – the former just happens, the latter is cultivated.
As kids, getting older is that thing we can’t do fast enough. The promise is irresistible. Every birthday brings some great new opportunity or anticipated freedom – a first bike, a later curfew, a stronger body. Then, almost overnight, it doesn’t. Somewhere along the way, the excitement meets resistance, the momentum slows and instead of feeling more stable and grounded in who we are becoming, we often feel anxious, scared, even angry. The promise starts to wear like a burden. The thrill of youthful anticipation cedes, the milestones become millstones.
And, in this moment, many of us abandon the project of growing up with a “this isn’t what I signed up for” kind of resignation. We feel betrayed and, instead of pursuing our deepest desires, we cap them out of fear that they will never be realized anyway. We begin to ignore the whispers of our own longings and stifle the primal impulse to keep expanding into who we are.
Trees don’t do this. They don’t resist their own expansion. On the contrary, the commit all they’ve got to it.
To those willing to watch and listen, trees have long been an inspiration. Trees are among the Earth’s oldest inhabitants and have been silent witnesses to just about everything. Some cultures refer to them as ‘Standing People’ and look to them as teachers. Here’s what a tree can teach us about growing up:
Acceptance: Trees grow in sync with their reality. They don’t resist who they are or lament their surroundings. They grow as if entirely comfortable with their leafy destiny. An Oak never tries to be a Maple!
Patience and humility: When young trees loose the race for the sun’s energy and are relegated to life as a ‘wanna be’ sapling, they wait humbly until a lane is available and then go for it.
To give and receive: When a tree succumbs to the forces of nature altogether – fire, wind, drought – it becomes essential fodder in the ongoing cycle of life on the forest floor, while those that tower high above the ground provide a much needed canopy for all that lives above and below.
Perhaps the most inspiring of all these teachers is the great Redwood. If you have spent time in any of the Redwood forests that line the Western Coasts of Canada and the United States, you will know of their magic and indomitable presence. It is impossible to “rush” through a stand of Redwoods. Their powerful silence calls us to slow down and tune in. They stand as a towering reminder that there is nothing else to tend to other than that which is in our immediate experience. Their serenity seems a reflection of their own contentment in being exactly what they were sown to be.
As a first impression, it is the awesome size and stature of a community of Redwoods that makes them so impressive. Some Redwoods reach 300+ feet into the air with lives spanning 2000 years and weighing up to 4,000 tons. If you cut a string about 30m in length, tied the ends and spread it in a circle, you would have the circumference of a mature Redwood. It seems impossible.
And yet, it isn’t.
It is precisely the things that make Redwoods possible that has inspired me to adopt their name and spirit for my Coaching Practice. They are a living testament to two of the essential elements of growing up: flexibility and interdependence.
The reason Redwoods stay standing is simple: they bend with the wind when it blows, especially when Mother Nature really lets it rip. To resist would mean to snap and put in jeopardy their life’s work. Their flexibility underwrites their strength and their capacity to keep growing up.
But there’s more. The real secret to living like a Redwood lies below the earth’s surface. Contrary to what you might think, the roots of a Redwood are relatively shallow, sometimes only 5 or 6 feet down into the earth. What stops them from toppling is that their roots spread many times that distance outward from the trunk, intertwining (and sometimes fusing) with other Redwoods to create an underground network of powerful connections. This is why they thrive in thick groves. Each tree is anchored by the strength of the entire community and vice versa.
It is this subterranean world of interdependence that gives a Redwood the freedom and support to constantly become itself and, in so doing, provide shelter, nourishment and vitality for those around it. In this sense, the presence of each tree calls forth the best in the other. Win/win.
Redwood Coaching is founded on this evolutionary spirit of synergy and integrated potential.
When working with me, you will experience my powerful blend of insight, compassion and flexibility in a customized Coaching Program designed to meet you exactly where you are and to cultivate specific capabilities needed to get where you want to go. You will be held gently accountable for your own growth while being guided to master the routines that anchor new habits of thought and behaviour that bring about meaningful and lasting change.
No one ever said that growing up would be easy, but it is what we are here to do. Let’s do it together!