The inner balance of trees

What humans can learn from the hidden life of trees

The book that started it all.

Peter Wohlleben, an author and forester in Germany, opens our eyes and minds to the hidden life of trees. This book is 98% “Amazing facts we didn’t know about the lives of trees and forests” and 2% content we already knew. What we know is so tiny compared to what exists. Forests are now grouped with space and the ocean. All three complex systems leave me in awe of the Universe. I dare you to read it and feel differently. One of my main takeaways: trees know the importance of inner balance.

I have three copies of this book; that is how much I love it. I started with the audiobook and then got physical copies in English and French to highlight and write notes. The audiobook is good, so if your work commute is long or you need something to listen to while cleaning, listen to it. And I hope you do because you will learn many things from the trees on these pages.

Firstly, the title of this book is spot on. If all the knowledge we acquire about trees depends on what is observable, we would know very little. Most of the action happens in places we cannot see. With animals, you see how they interact with each other and their environment, how they acquire food and water etc. All in real-time. Except for narwhals and pangolins, very few animals are a mystery. But trees? They hold some of the greatest mysteries in the natural world. What goes on inside the roots? Underneath the bark? In the leaves? Whatever they’re doing works because some trees alive today are thousands of years old. Could you let that sink in a little?

We share the planet with trees that are thousands of years old.

How?! How can a living organism live that long?!

A blog post is not enough space to answer that question because the answer is complex. So many factors affect the lifespan of a tree. Many. So many that the odds of a tree reaching old age is the same as winning the lottery. Even though 99.9% of trees don’t see their 1000th year of life, that doesn’t stop each tree from trying. And that is the most beautiful thing about these modest beings: They will never stop living to their fullest potential.

Their best shot at that? Maintaining inner balance.

Trees constantly maintain an inner balance by budgeting their energy carefully. Because trees live in the extremely slow lane, they must be careful with what they produce. They must be economical with energy to meet all their needs. Trees expend some energy growing their branches and widening the diameter of their trunks to support their increasing weight. They also keep some energy in reserve to react immediately and activate defensive compounds in their leaves and bark if insects or fungi attack. Nothing would upset that inner balance in an ideal forest, and a tree would live in peace. However, life only works out like that for some species. Not for trees, animals, or humans.

We are getting battered by our versions of insect attacks and severe storms. Our careers and our familial responsibilities are some of the demands that disrupt our inner balance. They deplete our reserves and leave us vulnerable; spiritually, emotionally and physically. Like trees, we can slow down, take stock of our inner balance, and allocate energy where needed, but we don’t. So instead, we keep trudging along, wondering why we’re so tired, sick and stuck.

There are no shortcuts to inner balance. There is no fast lane. It takes a lot of work and time.

The inner work must be done to reach our most tremendous potential. Only a tree that maintains balance can help fellow trees who need them. To be mentally, spiritually and physically healthy, we must nurture our energy and balance. Only when the inner balance is found, energy carefully allocated, and reserves full are we able to show up as our most authentic, most beautiful selves and be of service to those we love.

Let’s slow down, go within and connect with every part of our Being. Like trees, let’s heal the wounds and nurture what has been neglected for too long. Let’s do the inner work so that all aspects of our Being are seen, accepted, and loved.

Let’s live our highest potential.

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