What trees teach us about love

It starts with self-awareness

T’is the eve of St. Valentine’s Day. Better known as Galentine’s Day. It doesn’t matter whether you’re celebrating with a partner, family, or friends; it’s all about love. We’ve grown up using this day to show our love to our beloved but what about ourselves? How do we show ourselves love?

Whether in a relationship or not, the love we have for ourselves is the foundation for the love we give.

And just like the foundation of a house, we want to make sure it’s solid. If we do not practice love, acceptance, and compassion for ourselves, how will we be able to practice it with others? If we don’t love and attend to all parts of ourselves (physically, mentally, spiritually), how will we be able to love all aspects of our beloved? Some may think that self-love is not necessary or that it is a luxury. Some of the common things I hear are, “I don’t have the time,” “I’m too stressed with work,” and “I’m too tired after I finish taking care of everyone else.” Understandable and relatable. But like we make our children brush their teeth before bed, we, too, need to be proactive with our well-being. We can only give what we have to give.

Self-love allows your heart to overflow with love, patience, energy, awe, compassion and more, for others.

Trees know this firsthand. Trees in natural forests grow in families. They help each other out when needed. For example, they send nutrients to sick family members through the underground root and fungi network; they emit odours into the air to warn others of insect infestations. Trees may not have the capacity to love the way humans do but they care for each other when they can.

Unlike animals, trees cannot escape danger. Once a tree is rooted, this is where it will spend all its energy trying to grow and thrive. Trees must be connected to all their parts to do this as successfully as possible. They must be aware of their whole being to send nutrients or protection where required. This is what is so beautiful about trees.

Trees are so attuned to their whole being and will use their energy to ensure they are in the best possible position to thrive.

Trees worry about their needs first and foremost. They take stock of what the roots, trunk, branches, leaves etc., need and fulfill those needs to be the healthiest version of themselves. Once food, water, defence, and reserves are taken care of, they are in the best position to give to other trees needing help.

Healthy trees that have prioritized their needs can give to others without sacrificing themselves. That is how they remain healthy.

A healthy forest has healthy trees. Healthy trees take care of themselves first before helping others. Trees can only give what they have to give. We would do well to learn this lesson from trees. When we are sick, tired, or stressed, we need to turn our attention inwards and connect with all parts of ourselves. It’s tempting to believe that the reasons are external. Let’s turn our attention inward, and we may be surprised to discover that we have been giving and giving but have no reserves. We are depleted. And giving when we are depleted is giving those we love what’s left of us instead of the best of us. We would never think that a tree was selfish in caring for itself first before helping others, so why do we feel it is selfish to do so?

Awareness of our needs is vital in loving ourselves more deeply. It is taking the time to go inwards to see which parts of us need nourishment, attention and love. Loving ourselves does not require chocolates or flowers; it requires things money cannot buy.

It requires our awareness, action, and desire to thrive. It requires our understanding that to be of service to those we love; we must go inwards, take stock of our needs, send love and nourishment accordingly, and fill up our reserves.

Imagine if everyone understood this. We’d be a damn healthy forest.

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