As I look out the window at the reddening buds on the trees thwarted this year by mid-May snow and chilled temperatures, I wonder if the trees argue about the reasons for the snow. Do they blame people? Do they try to prove to each other who is right? Do they rely on facts shared by birds who migrate with the seasons or do they only trust the birds who live here year round?

As mycelium research shows, trees communicate through their root systems. Do the trees warn each other of the pandemics sweeping through the forest? Emerald ash borers, maple fungal disease, beech bark disease, people and their deforestation machinery? It is said the trees listen to one another and share messages with beings in the forest, a truth we once knew when we were living in connection with nature. 

What if our communication as humans could be one of more listening, as with the trees? Would we fight so much amongst each other about the validity of threats? Would we induce less shame and suffering? Would we be so controlling of narratives that are not ours to control? Would we come to understand the need for spaciousness to breathe? Would we call no many names and cast so many judgements when we are scared?

Communing with trees is a practice of listening within and connecting with a sacred wisdom that can provide a perspective not offered in the drowning saturation of noise in bombarding messages.

Fear and Love

As I listen, I feel into my heart for what is alive and I find both fear and love. I feel the burn of transformational fire and the ignition for change. I feel the emotional depth of water and the call to surrender. I feel a grounding into the Earth and a connection with the roots of nature. I feel the pressure and the force of air and how it catches me in a wind tunnel and then floats me into stillness when I change directions.

We humans are at a precipice. We have reached our capacity—as a species on the planet and as people facing a global pandemic.

Can we hold space for each other to be human? To feel our emotions? To recognize that emotions fuel behaviors and the only thing we have control over is how we respond or react?

Navigating change also means being change. Our beliefs, assumptions, values, ideas, thoughts, and emotions are in immediate evolution and we are broadcasting these frequencies as a part of our process to deal with the personal and collective traumas we are experiencing.

Behaviors which prevent a lack of belonging cause pain and any energy that communicates someone does not belong, adds to suffering in our human experience. There is so much energy being put into cutting each other down, calling each other out, and trying to tear others’ beliefs apart. As with all energy, there is a ripple effect.

Restoring Compassion in Communication

In the insatiable American appetite to grow, expand, consume, and produce, we have lost the ability to listen which has never been more apparent than it is right now.

We are so quick to call someone out for “spreading fear” that we are unable to look at our own communication and see how exclusion is a fundamental cause of fear—so much so that before we lived in service to the capitalistic machine, banishment from one’s community was the worst punishment prior to death.

I do not believe it is our humanity that is broken, but the systems that both afford privilege and take away opportunity and dignity—and all of the spaces in between. There is so much systemic energy barreling into “returning life to normal” when the reality is normal only worked for some people. We have the chance to change—political systems, economic systems, financial systems, educational systems, health care systems—from oppressive institutions built on colonialism, capitalism, and white supremacy to a new type of society that meets the needs of its people with dignity, respect, hope, and compassion.

There is a great deal of power and wealth behind these systems, steeped in long-standing corruption, that will go to many lengths to stay in power and keep the status quo. One of the most effective ways to help ensure these systems stay in tact—or even worse, for those in power to gain even more control—is for fear and divisiveness among the people who serve the systems. An approach that has been utilized by those with the most power and privilege for hundreds of years of history, repeating the same dominance time and time again.

We as citizens hold the power to rise up together and affect change. The outcome does not have to repeat history. Our very humanity depends on it and begins with unlearning, relearning, and remembering how to listen. We must begin to listen to different voices—the voices that do not hold the dominant stage, the voices that are often suppressed or silenced because their truths disrupt the illusion of control the crumbling systems of wealth and power are trying to maintain over society.

And we are being asked to listen to each other to validate we are all going through a traumatic experience that generates fear. To be soft with each other, to hold compassion for one another, to hold space for messy and challenging conversations without name calling, blaming, judging, and gaslighting.

True listening also asks us to go within and sit with why we react the way we do. When we see information shared that we disagree with, what emotions does it bring up for us and how can we work through what we are feeling without berating someone else?

Every single day I am being called to question my beliefs, my values, and my perspectives. They changed drastically as I dealt with cancer and a public health crisis over the past two+ years, and they are changing yet again. I learned then that resiliency comes with being able to open to the space in myself to unlearn and relearn. These gifts have been some of the greatest blessings while trying to navigate the COVID 19 pandemic. Everyday I both struggle and shine, cry and laugh, am afraid and love. And every day, I listen with my heart and sit with the unknown. And when it all feels like it is too much, I hug myself within the mess and step outside to listen to the trees.

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