The following article written by the editor of this web site appeared in the October, 2006 issue of "Personal Excellence" magazine

Spiritual Roots

There are many lessons to be learned from the natural world. Take, for example, trees. According to the book "The Trees Around Us", trees are vital to much of the life on earth. Forests cover almost one third of the land area of our planet. They help protect, sustain and improve mankind's supplies of fresh water. They purify the air and convert carbon dioxide, water, minerals and sunlight into nutrients and oxygen. Many plants, insects, fungi, worms and other organisms are dependent upon the shade, moisture and leaf debris provided by trees. Additionally, the environment provided by trees supports a wide variety of reptiles, birds, and mammals.

What life lessons can we, as humans, learn from trees?

1. Be flexible.
The trees that bend a little to the harmless breeze will later grow to withstand the wild wind. Similarly, if we maintain a degree of flexibility in our attitudes and viewpoints we will not be broken in any storm of criticism or opposition.

2. Value the little things.
Leaves, though they can be small, are vital to the life of a tree. Similarly, expressions of encouragement and appreciation, whether it be by spoken word or in the form of a simple "Thank You" card can go a long way to build the spirits of the receiver. If they are wholly restrained, the motivation of others to work with us and support common goals may die at the roots.

3. Do not be intimidated by small beginnings.
Mighty oaks do indeed grow from little acorns. Efforts, when enriched with strong motivation and determination, will grow to fruition. Remember that the mighty oak tree was once a little nut that held its ground.

4. Do not be afraid of change.
As David Zindell observed in "The Broken God", an acorn is unafraid to destroy itself in growing into a tree. Invigorate your life by letting go of the past and pressing forward to something new.

5. Practice teamwork.
In forests, individual trees support one another. Whereas even a giant Sequoia growing by itself could be blown over, by interlocking its roots with other trees around it, Sequoias are able to stand as a grove against any wind. How much support do you share with those around you? Teamwork can accomplish much more than the sum of individual efforts, often making the difference between success and failure.

6. Grow leadership.
As noted above, trees provide an environment that supports the growth of many other life forms, including saplings, small replicas of itself. An important leadership characteristic is to provide an environment that empowers and enables others to take on greater responsibility so that they, too, can develop into full-grown leaders.

7. Develop a value-system.
Trees have extensive root systems. Some trees, such as mesquites, grow taproots that are often larger than the trunk and that can extend down into the ground hundreds of feet to reach vital sources of water. How extensive is your root system? Is it solidly embedded in principles and values that provide valuable guidance when life-decisions need to be made?

Yes, as Joyce Kilmer expressed it:
"I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree."

ACTION: Learn from nature.

Grant M. Bright
Leadership Facilitator, Bright Consulting

Additional learning points about trees:

  1. It's important to have roots.
  2. In today's complex world, it pays to branch out.
  3. Don't pine away over old flames.
  4. If you really believe in something, don't be afraid to go out on a limb.
  5. Be flexible so you don't break when a harsh wind blows.
  6. Sometimes you have to shed your old bark in order to grow.
  7. Grow where you're planted.
  8. It's perfectly okay to be a late bloomer.
  9. Avoid people who would like to cut you down.
  10. You can't hide your true colors as you approach the autumn of your life.

Lesson of the Geese
Click here to see a visual presentation of what we can learn from Geese

by Mahesh Jambunathan

I learnt from the sun
That light has to be spread,
The breeze taught me
How to be cool all the time
The trees inspired me to be colossal in giving
As I discovered serenity from water
And the vacuum made me understand
How to live with nothing around
The earth taught me how to nurture
The very people who trampled it
Fire made me realize the importance
Of being pure and yet involving
I learnt from space the virtue of
Being BIG and yet unassuming
For nature had all virtues a man needs to learn
In all its elements

The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine! Feels at each thread and lives along the line.
- Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
but I have promises to keep,
and miles to go before I sleep,
and miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost

Dolphins often come to the rescue of human beings in distress in the water. Their ability to help humans under shark attack has been observed in oceans around the world. In such situations, it is teamwork that enables them to be successful. Regina Asmutis-Silvia with the Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society says "They’ll communicate with each other and coordinate their movements to ram a shark with their long bony snouts."

Click HERE for a sermon delivered on August 13, 1871 by C.H. Spurgeon on the subject "Lessons From Nature."

Civilization no longer needs to open up wilderness; it needs wilderness to help open up the still largely unexplored human mind.
- David Rains Wallace

Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look at what they can do when they stick together.

In the jungles of South America there exists a parasitic plant that lives on the top of trees. It drops its seeds to the ground, where they sprout. The vine-like shoots are attracted to the darkness under a tree. From there, the vine climbs the tree trunk to the top, where it proceeds to sink its roots into the tree, eventually discarding the vine part. This process is repeated with each successive generation. What a fine example of perseverance and risk taking!
- Grant M. Bright

The earth has music for those who listen.
- William Shakespeare

Consider the iceberg, only 10% or less of which is visible to the eye. What we can easily see is only a small percentage of what is there. Similarly with many other things, what we can see is a small percentage of what is there or what is possible. Imagination is having the vision to see what is just below the surface; to picture that which is essential, but invisible to the eye.
- Grant M. Bright

Try to understand and trust abstractions. If you can learn to both see and believe in life's underlying patterns, you can make highly informed decisions every day.
- Nathan Myhrvold, CTO, Microsoft Corp

If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.

What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, God calls a butterfly!
- Diane Mashia

Eagles we are not, but we can still fly. Our imaginations becomes our wings. The magnificent eagle is still just an eagle, but we can soar as high and as far as our aspirations can take us.

Even caterpillars could fly if they would just lighten up.

When you go from being a caterpillar to becoming a butterfly, you're nothing more than a yellow gooey sticky mess.
- Ted Forbes

Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

A butterfly must struggle to break out of its cocoon. But the struggle to emerge from the cocoon forces the fluid from the butterfly’s body into its wings - a necessary process for enabling it to fly.
- Charles C. Manz

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you,
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
- From the poem 'Lost' - David Wagoner

Certainly there is nothing commonplace about the vigorous, laughing, crystal-clear stream which has carved a remote, little known canyon through the heart of a desert mountain range.
- Weldon F. Heald

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wilderness?
Let them be left,
Oh, let them be left, wilderness and wet;
Long live the woods and the wilderness yet.
- Gerard Manley Hopkins

Don't think there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.
- Malayan proverb

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
- Helen Keller

The trees that bend a little to the harmless breeze,
Will later grow to withstand the wild wind.

The richest values of wilderness lies not in the days of Daniel Boone nor even in the present, but rather in the future.
- Aldo Leopold

The desert holds a mystique, a subtle fascination, which is difficult to pinpoint and more difficult to describe. Not all people are so affected by it, but those who have experienced the desert in this way are the richer.
- Peggy Larson, The Deserts of the Southwest

Only the rocks live forever.
- James Michener, Centennial

The sun is always shining. Even though clouds may come along and obscure the sun for a while, the sun is always shining. The sun never stops shining. And even though the earth turns, and the sun appears to go down, it really never stops shining.
- Louise L. Hay

Is your life busy and full of activity? Are you blindly following someone else? You may be going nowhere! "Processionary" caterpillars follow one another. It's possible to have a long line of them following each other in a circle around a flower pot that contains their food. They may continue to march around the pot for hours, days, only to finally expire from exhaustion. Being busy and active means nothing if your activity is not centered on the most important things or if you are blindly following someone else.
- Grant M. Bright

Just as a sunbeam can't separate itself from the sun and a wave can't separate itself from the ocean; we can't separate ourselves from one another. We are all part of a vast sea of love one indivisible divine mind.
- Marianne Williamson

If you have ever raised asparagus, you will understand the concept of a 'poisonous root.' You plant asparagus as a root. The first year it just lies there under the surface of the ground and you get the idea that maybe it has disappeared or died. But the second year, it comes springing up and you have your crop. Bitterness can lay seemingly dormant under the surface for months or years and then, suddenly, it springs up and takes over. The Bible warns about bitterness very clearly in several passages. In Hebrews 12:14-15, we read, "Pursue peace with all people...that no poisonous root (root of bitterness - KJV) may spring up and cause trouble and that many may not be defiled by it."

A city dweller moved to a farm and bought a cow. Shortly after he did, the cow went dry. When he reported this fact to a neighbor farmer, the farmer expressed surprise. The city man said he was surprised too. "I can't understand it either, for if ever a person was considerate of an animal, I was of that cow. If I didn't need any milk, I didn't milk her. If I only needed a quart, I only took a quart." The farmer tried to explain that the only way to keep milk flowing is not to take as little as possible from the cow, but to take as much as possible. Is that not also true of life?

In the frigid waters around Greenland are countless icebergs, some little and some gigantic. If you'd observe them carefully, you'd notice that sometimes the small ice floes move in one direction while their massive counterparts flow in another. The explanation is simple. Surface winds drive the little ones, whereas the huge masses of ice are carried along by deep ocean currents. When we face trials and tragedies, it's helpful to see our lives as being subject to two forces – surface winds and ocean currents. The winds represent everything changeable and unpredictable in the world that surrounds us including a multitude of bewildering opinions, theories, persuasions and philosophies. But operating simultaneously with these gusts and gales is another force that's even more powerful. It is the sure movement of a personal dedication to a set of underlying divine principles and values that do not change with the times and that run deeper and surer than the surface turmoil. We are wise to seek out such principles and let them guide and propel us forward.

COFFEE BEANS (You may never look at a cup of coffee the same way again.)
A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed that as one problem was solved a new one arose. Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.
In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, "Tell me what do you see?" Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
She brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked. "What's the point, mother?"
Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity--boiling water--but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they had changed the water.
"Which are you?" she asked her daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

A farmer, being on the point of death, wished to be sure that his sons would give the same attention to his farm as he himself had given it. He called them to his bedside and said, "My sons, there is a great treasure in one of my vineyards." The sons, after his death, took their spades and mattocks and carefully dug over every portion of their land. They found no treasure, but the vines repaid their labor by an extraordinary and superabundant crop.

End of Quotes on "Lessons From Nature"


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