To paraphrase the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu, “my tree” is one of many steps on my journey. “My tree” has been on my mind and in my heart for more than a decade, inspired by a lesson that my dear teacher, Erin Geesaman Rabke, offered on the Buddhist principle of maitri, one of The Four Limitless Qualities. At its core, maitri invites us to cultivate lovingkindness toward ourselves. The unconditional friendliness of maitri is fertile ground for planting the seeds of yoga practice.
My house has a tiny box for planting flowers and in early spring, lacking a green thumb, I visit the local nursery. I leave with an array of seedlings, various instructions, and at best a vague idea of what, exactly, will bloom. Before planting, I prepare the soil: remove the weeds, turn over the remains of the annuals, and water. This crucial step, creating the foundation, can feel tedious, but the feel of my hands in the earth and the promise of beauty draw me outside most mornings to pull a few weeds, sprinkle some water. Come summer, the surprise blossoms take root, rise up, and bloom, and with each one I delight in the discovery. By the time the morning frost of late autumn arrives, the few remaining flowers have withered and wizened so that, when the first snow falls, the brittle stems surrender with ease.
We can’t know how our lives will unfold, but when we plant our wishes and dreams in soil lush with maitri, even the most fragile, improbable seeds flourish. Rich with love, acceptance, and clarity, maitri is alchemical in nature–it transforms darkness into light, aversion into acceptance, discord into harmony. May the ground of maitri support and nourish each one of us as we dance along the path of yoga.