“Nothing is holier; nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous inscribed disk of its trunk; in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farm boy, knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.” Hermann Hesse
When I reflect on the path of the Elder Warrior, the metaphor of rings in a tree comes to mind. A tree goes through various kinds of growth. Each year, a tree adds new layers of wood to its trunk. If you count the rings of a tree, it will tell you how long the tree has been living. The shape and the width of the rings can differ from year to year. Wide rings indicate a time of intense growth. A tree that is happy getting lots of sunshine and rain will show rings that are broad and evenly spaced. Narrow rings indicate less favorable conditions for growth, unusually cold weather, insect damage, lack of nutrients, drought.
The narrow rings produce much stronger wood than the broader rings and are essential to a tree’s overall strength. When a tree puts down a narrow ring, because it was a year of drought, it also deepens its roots. By reading the rings of a tree, you can see the scars from a forest fire, hurricane, and other severe weather conditions. When a tree is injured, it weeps and bleeds sap to begin the healing process. In the years that follow, the tree focuses on growth in the wounded area to repair the damages. An old tree will have hidden scars under the layers. Anyone who splits wood will tell you it is these wounded areas of the tree that are the strongest and most difficult to split and will burn better than the unscarred areas.
Adult warriors are like a beautiful, strong tree. We all have had some years of sunshine and growth and some years of challenges and suffering. We have scars deep within our mind and body. We reflect on the lessons of our life and in silence we find wisdom. Erik Erikson says, “Wisdom comes from life experience, well digested. It’s not what comes from reading great books. When it comes to understanding life, experiential learning is the only worthwhile kind: everything else is hearsay.” At the end of each chapter I will share in Rings of Wisdom how the lessons have worked in my life.
I will begin this week by telling you I have many rings; some are narrow and strong and some a broad and balanced. I have had years of sunshine and growth, and times of struggles and challenges. Today I can see the wounds from childhood gifting me with more compassion. The wounds from adulthood have lead me to Mindfulness training where I gain insight and awareness setting me free to let go and move beyond judgment and fear. These are scars I have transformed as I see myself as a wounded healer
My wish for each of you is to find the wounded areas of your life as your strength. It is through self-awareness we light up the scars dissolving the blind spots; we grow empathy for self and others and allow the fire within to burn long and strong. Together lets become warriors difficult to split or break as we find new ways to think about ageing and we become busy making the world a better place for every living creature. We begin this journey learning practices and tools for growing self-awareness and a deeper understanding of who we are, what we believe, and how we wish to live in a way that is guided by the awakening Spirit.